Search results for: "joyce foundation"

Several weeks ago, a Chicago website reported that the Chicago Tribune, the Joyce Foundation, and the University of Chicago were engaging in “push polling.” This is a telephone poll that literally “pushes” the listener in a certain direction, with questions designed to have pre-determined conclusions.

Read the transcript. Do you think this was a push poll?

Kathryn Joyce of Salon has written one dynamite article after another about the movement to destroy public education. In this post, she writes that Florida was ranked # 1 in “educational freedom” by the far-right Heritage Foundation, which wants to privatize all schools. This is a brilliant, must-read article!

Arizona, which has pushed hard to expand charters and vouchers, came in a close second.

That claim, along with the fact that the list’s top 20 states are mostly deep “red” and its bottom 10 are almost all dark “blue,” might come as a surprise to education watchers who are familiar with more traditional assessments of education performance. But in the Heritage Foundation’s inaugural “Education Freedom Report Card,” the think tank is grading according to a different metric entirely: not things like average student funding, teacher salary or classroom size, but how easily state legislatures enable students to leave public schools; how lightly private schools and homeschooling are regulated; how active and welcome conservative parent-advocacy groups are; and how frequently or loudly those groups claim that schools are indoctrinating students….

In the category of education choice, Heritage’s primary focus is on education savings accounts(ESAs), a form of school voucher that allows parents to opt out of public schools and use a set amount of state funding (sometimes delivered via debit card) on almost any educational expenses they see fit. ESAs can be used towards charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and low-cost (and typically low-quality) “voucher schools,” as well as online schools, homeschooling expenses, unregulated “microschools” (where a group of parents pool resources to hire a private teacher) or tutoring. The report’s methodology also notes that the percentage of children in a state who attend these alternatives to public schools figures into its rankings, implying that families who choose traditional public schools are not considered examples of educational “freedom.” The “choice” category also awards points based on how non-public schools are regulated, docking states that require accreditation or the same level of testing mandated for public schools.

States can lose points if they have credentialed teachers and gain points if they let anyone without any credentials teach. They also lose points if they have good pension plans and unions. They gain points by having strong bans on “critical race theory” and gain points for teaching patriotic history.

What’s especially noteworthy about this report — which Heritage says it will release on an annual basis — is how closely most of its ranking criteria track with the right’s broader education agenda. Over the last few months, almost all the issues addressed in this report have been highlighted as key action items for conservative education reformers, from the promotion of ESAs, as a preferred pathway to universal school vouchers, to alternative teacher credentialing to the expansion of the anti-CRT movement, which now encompasses anything related to “diversity, equity and inclusion…”

Framing the report by invoking the libertarian economist [Milton] Friedman — who, over the course of his controversial career, proposed eliminating Social Security, the Food and Drug Administration, the licensing of doctors and more — is a telling choice. In a foundational 1955 essay, as Heritage notes, Friedman famously argued that “government-administered schooling” was incompatible with a freedom-loving society, and that public funding of education should be severed from public administration of it — which would end public education as the country had known it for generations…

“Friedman may have been an accomplished number-cruncher, but when it came to social issues, he was a crackpot,” said Carol Corbett Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education. He claimed that “vouchers ‘would solve all of the critical problems’ faced by schools,” from discipline, to busing to segregation, Burris continued. “He presented no evidence, just claims based on his disdain for any government regulation….”

By 1980, Friedman was declaring that vouchers were merely a useful waypoint on the road to true education freedom, which would include revoking compulsory education laws. In 2006, shortly before his death, Friedman told an ALEC audience that it would be “ideal” to “abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.”

For Heritage to use Friedman as its ideological lodestar, public education advocates observe, makes clear what the report values most in the state education systems it’s ranking….

“The fact that the Heritage Foundation ranks Arizona second in the country, when our schools are funded nearly last in the nation, only underscores the depraved lens with which they view the world,” said Beth Lewis, director of the advocacy group Save Our Schools Arizona, which is currently leading a citizen ballot referendumagainst the state’s new universal ESA law. “Heritage boasting about realizing Milton Friedman’s dream reveals the agenda — to abolish public schools and put every child on a voucher in segregated schools….”

“With this report,” added Burris, “the Heritage Foundation puts its values front and forward — that schooling should be a free-for-all marketplace where states spend the least possible on educating the future generation of Americans, with no regulations to preserve quality.” It’s no accident, Burris added, that Heritage’s top two states, Florida and Arizona, were ranked as the worst on the Network for Public Education’s own report card this year.

Our reasonable and sensible friend Jan Resseger writes here about the efforts by the Heritage Foundatuon and its allies to saddle Ohio with vouchers. This is especially bizarre because researchers have consistently found that kids in public schools learn more than those in religious schools. Their goal: diminish or eliminate public schools.

She writes:

When you notice a particular educational trend moving across state legislatures, it is useful to investigate who’s behind the policy and who is making it so difficult to mount effective opposition. On Tuesday, this blog covered some of the far-right advocacy groups pressuring Ohio’s supermajority Republican legislature to pass House Bill 290, the Backpack Bill, which would bring a universal Education Savings Account (ESA) school voucher program to the state. Kathryn Joyce’s research for SALON demonstrates that the effort to pass a wave of universal ESA voucher bills is much broader than the particular groups working in Ohio.

Profiling a strategic effort by the Heritage Foundation to drive ESA vouchers through a number of state legislatures, Joyce describes the Heritage Foundation’s new Education Freedom Report Cardwhich rates the states in four categories: “In the category of education choice, Heritage’s primary focus is on education savings accounts (ESAs), a form of school voucher that allows parents to opt out of public schools and use a set amount of state funding (sometimes delivered via debit card) on almost any educational expenses they see fit. ESAs can be used towards charter schools, private schools, parochial schools and low-cost (and typically low-quality) ‘voucher schools,’ as well as online schools, homeschooling expenses, unregulated ‘microschools’ (where a group of parents pool resources to hire a private teacher) or tutoring.”

“In terms of regulatory freedom, Heritage weighs whether states enforce ‘overburdensome’ regulations… The chief concern here appears to be (weakening) teacher certification credentials…. In the third category, transparency, the report rewards states that have ‘strong anti-critical race theory’ laws, high rates of engagement by groups like Parents Defending Education… and laws requiring school districts to provide exhaustive public access to any student curricula or educational materials… Lastly, in terms of spending, the report compares per-pupil (public school) spending not just to learning outcomes but also to matters like the future tax burden created by teacher pensions.”

In states whose legislatures are considering universal Education Savings Account bills like Ohio’s HB 290 Backpack Bill, legislators are receiving lots of help from far-right organizations pumping out “model legislation” that can be adapted to the needs of any state legislature. Joyce points out that the Heritage Foundation’s new report includes “a section containing model legislation written by the Goldwater Institute, the libertarian law firm, Institute for Justice, and (from) the Heritage Foundation itself, covering more ‘anti-CRT’ proposals, more requirements for schools to publicize their training materials for students and staff, and more or bigger ESA voucher programs.” You will remember that Tuesday’s blog post on Ohio quoted the Ohio Capital Journal’s Zurie Pope reporting that Ohio legislators sponsoring the Ohio House Bill 290, have received guidance from the Ohio Center for Christian Virtue, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), EdChoice (the former Friedman Foundation for EdChoice), and Heritage Action.

The top scorers on the Heritage Foundation’s Education Freedom Report Card are Florida with the top ranking and Arizona coming in second. Kathryn Joyce publishes comments from public education supporters in both states. In Florida, Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association notes that Florida ranks 45th in the United states in average per-student public school funding. He comments: “In their report, it seems like the states that fund their (public school) students at a higher level have a worse ranking than those who invest less in their children… the Heritage Foundation celebrating the rankings of how well you underfund public schools, how well you dismantle public schools.”

In Arizona, Beth Lewis, director of Save Our Schools Arizona, “which is currently leading a citizen ballot referendum against the state’s new universal ESA Law,” said “The fact that the Heritage Foundation ranks Arizona second in the country, when our (public) schools are funded nearly last in the nation, only underscores the depraved lens with which they view the world… Heritage boasting about realizing Milton Friedman’s dream reveals the agenda—to abolish public schools and put every child on a voucher….”

Ohio is not the only state where politicians are currently being pressed by far right advocates to adopt one of the model ESA bills that are available to anyone who wants one.

States whose legislatures have enacted Education Savings Account vouchers to date include Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Indiana, and Missouri. ESA programs were passed but later found unconstitutional in Nevadaand Kentucky under the provisions of their state constitutions.

For example, for the Wisconsin Examiner, Ruth Conniff reports that education policy has become a huge issue of contention between “Republican candidate Tim Michels, Donald Trump’s choice for governor of Wisconsin, who is challenging incumbent Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, the former state schools superintendent, this fall.” Evers has managed to hold off the school privatizers in both houses of Wisconsin’s Republican-dominated state legislature for the past four years. Last week, Conniff explained: “A group of heavy hitters in Wisconsin politics announced Thursday that they are forming a coalition to push for universal school choice and ‘parents’ rights.’ The group, which calls itself the Wisconsin Coalition for Education Freedom, includes Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Americans for Prosperity, the American Federation for Children, School Choice Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty… Michels and Evers are far apart on a lot of issues, from abortion to immigration to how the state runs elections, but one of the most profound impacts of the Wisconsin governor’s race will be the way it shapes the future of education. Michels’ education blueprint calls for an immediate, statewide expansion of Wisconsin’s school choice program… Michels said, ‘I will introduce universal school choice in my first budget in 2023… Among the other goals of the Wisconsin Coalition for Education Freedom is a ‘Parents’ Bill of Rights’ which would encourage lawsuits against school districts that don’t take direction from parents on these issues.”

Conniff concludes: “But beyond these flashy culture-war issues is a steady march toward a privatized education system that is on its way to bankrupting Wisconsin’s once-great public schools.”

Kathryn Joyce writes in Salon about a new “patriotic” social studies curriculum that celebrates rightwing ideology and deletes social justice from American history. The goal of the new curriculum is to fight “critical race theory” and “wokeness,” which are allegedly trying to “overthrow America.”

Just to be clear, the goal of the new curriculum is to delete the accurate and tragic facts about racism, past and present. They want teachers to stuff children’s heads with fake history. They assume that if students learn the truth about slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow, segregation, redlining, and the unfinished struggle for equal rights for all, they will not have faith in America. If they learn the truth, they think, they will want to “overthrow” the government. This is almost too insane to write or repeat, but it’s happening. Crazy people want teachers of social studies and history to teach lies.

We used to teach children that it was wrong to tell lies. But these extremists want the entire education system to embrace lies. The danger is that students will watch documentaries on television and discover that everything they learned in social studies was a pack of lies. What then? Who will they want to overthrow?

Joyce writes:

In late June, a conservative education coalition called the Civics Alliance released a new set of social studies standards for K-12 schools, with the intention of promoting it as a model for states nationwide. These standards, entitled “American Birthright,” are framed as yet another corrective to supposedly “woke” public schools, where, according to Republicans, theoretical frameworks like critical race theory are only one part of a larger attack on the foundations of American democracy. 

“Too many Americans have emerged from our schools ignorant of America’s history, indifferent to liberty, filled with animus against their ancestors and their fellow Americans, and estranged from their country,” reads the introduction to “American Birthright.” (The “birthright” here refers to “freedom.”) And the fields of history and civics, it suggests, exemplify the worst of that trend. “The warping of American social studies instruction has created a corps of activists dedicated to the overthrow of America and its freedoms, larger numbers of Americans indifferent to the steady whittling away of American liberty, and many more who are so ignorant of the past they cannot use our heritage of freedom to judge contemporary debates.” 

While it claims to represent an ideologically neutral, apolitical history, the document holds that most instruction that references “diversity, equity and inclusion” or “social justice” amounts to “vocational training in progressive activism” and “actively promote[s] disaffection from our country.” It heralds Ronald Reagan as a “hero of liberty” alongside Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Its proposed lessons in contemporary U.S. history include Reagan’s revitalization of the conservative movement, Bill Clinton’s impeachment, “Executive amnesties for illegal aliens” and the “George Floyd Riots.”  

American Birthright is just one of numerous recent right-wing efforts to overhaul public K-12 curricula to align with the dictates of current conservative ideology. 

Last week, the Miami Herald reported that Florida’s Department of Education has begun holding three-day training sessions for public school teachers around the state to prepare them to implement the state’s new Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ flagship effort to create a more “patriotic” civics curriculum. The new Florida standards were created in consultation with Hillsdale College, a small Christian college that has become a guiding force on the right, and the Charles Koch-founded Bill of Rights Institute. 

These new rightwing curriculum writers want to impose the evangelical Christian worldview on America’s children. They want to force their fundamentalists ideology on everyone. Once they have gained control of the Governor’s office, they want to gain control of the schools and use them as centers of indoctrination. You may believe, with some evidence, that public schools have always taught American history with the atrocities edited out. But not even the bowdlerized textbooks were as audacious as the outright lies that the fundies are pushing now.

Mainstream textbook editors might balk at portraying Ronald Reagan as the equal of Abraham Lincoln. If so, the states that want anti-woke (i.e., unconscious) accounts of history can always purchase the texts produced by the publishers that supply Christian fundamentalist schools and Bob Jones University. The Abeka curriculum, written for homeschoolers and Christian schools, might become the official textbooks of Florida and other red states.

Who needs an educated citizenry? Apparently the educated are a threat to the indoctrinated.

Sarah Reckhow of Michigan State University University and Megan Tompkins-Stange of the University of Michigan studied the ways in which foundations fund research that advances policies they believe in. They use the issue of teacher quality, specifically, to demonstrate how the Gates Foundation and the Broad Foundation underwrote research that provided evidence for evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students (VAM, or value-added modeling). The research supported a policy that the Obama administration wanted to implement.

VAM turned out to be highly ineffective and demoralized teachers, but the big foundations gave the Obama administration the back-up the administration needed for their demand that teachers be evaluated by their students’ test scores. The American Statistical Association warned that VAM was an invalid measure of individual teachers, as did other scholarly and professional organizations, but Obama and Duncan ignored the naysayers.

Reckhow and Tompkins-Stange write:

After the Obama Administration took office in 2009, a number of former Gates Foundation officials assumed senior roles in the Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan, and were influential in drafting Race to the Top, a $4.3 billion competitive grant program designed to induce states to comply with specific policy reforms, including the use of value-added methods in evaluation programs. The Department of Education’s call for proposals stated that Race to the Top grant winners would focus on advancing four specific reforms:

Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy; building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction; Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining eective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and turning around our lowest-achieving schools.”

These implicit and explicit references to value-added measures and the need to evaluate and compensate teachers based on their eectiveness are evidence of the emergent debates around using student test scores to determine teacher pay—another plank of the education reformers’ theory of change. An interviewee from a foundation commented on the fact that after Race to the Top, states were required to “put together evaluation systems for teachers and states would begin to link this to hiring and firing.” The fact that this particular reform had acquired such political capital in a relatively short time was, in the words of this interviewee, “remarkable.”

Creating an evidence base

In addition to maintaining close networks with policy elites, foundations actively engaged in commissioning original research designed to provide an evidence base relevant to their policy priorities. Foundations make grants to intermediary organizations to conduct “advocacy research,” which has the explicit objective of being injected into policy discourse to be cited as empirical justification for desired reforms (Lubienski et al. 2009). Unlike traditional peer-reviewed research, which may pose uncertain conclusions regarding policy implications, advocacy research is shaped by specific policy objectives and political strategy and is typically produced by think tanks and nonprofit organizations, rather than universities (Shaker and Heilman 2004). The level of empirical rigor in advocacy research exists on a spectrum, from employing highly rigorous methods and considerations of external and internal validity, to omitting discussion of methods entirely.

While foundation-funded advocacy research is by no means the only source of policy-influential research in the teacher quality debate, it is central in Congressional hearings during our study period. Between 2000 and 2016, only nine research reports were cited three or more times by witnesses (and only one of which was peer-reviewed). The fourth-most cited report, which was consistently referenced in our interviews, was a 2009 advocacy research report by The New Teacher Project entitled The Widget Eect—a call to arms about the need for systematic teacher evaluation systems in order to distinguish between low-quality and high-quality teachers using test score-based evaluation methods. The report stated that “institutional indierence to variations in teacher performance” resulted in systems that perpetuated low-quality teaching across the country, taking aim at evaluation systems that relied predominantly on observational meth-ods as opposed to econometric approaches (Weisberg et al. 2009). Several education reform-oriented foundations including the Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, Robertson Foundation, and Joyce Foundation funded the report. Within a month of its release in 2009, Secretary Duncan made the following statement about the report in a speech:

“These policies…have produced an industrial factory model of education that treats all teachers like interchangeable widgets. A recent report from the New Teacher Project found that almost all teachers are rated the same. Who in their right mind really believes that? We need to work together to change this.

The Widget Eect was praised by many interviewees as a triumph of advocacy research—a clear proposal and message, presented in a comprehensible and digestible format, that made a complicated issue more palatable. More importantly, however, the report was also a triumph for the policy networks surround-ing teacher quality discourse—within a month, the report had had such impact that Secretary Duncan was referencing it in major speeches, which was accomplished by disseminating it through policy networks among actors with shared preferences.

The widespread recognition of The Widget Eect was emblematic of the rising prominence of advocacy research in policy debates. In the last ten years, education policy scholars have observed a shift toward targeted advocacy research funded by foundations, particularly surrounding issues of market-based policy interventions (Henig 2009; Lubienski et al. 2009). Contemporary examples of advocacy research contest the traditional conceptualization of expert researchers being separate and distinct from politics. According to Kingdon (2011, p. 228):

“The policy community concentrates on matters like technical detail, cost-benefit analyses, gathering data, conducting studies, and honing proposals. The political people, by contrast, paint with a broad brush, are involved in many more issue areas than the policy people are, and concentrate on winning elections, promoting parties, and mobilizing support in the larger pol-ity.”

In current education policy networks, however, the converse is true, as researchers and advocates may overlap. One interviewee, a sta member of an education advocacy organization, described her role on a Gates Foundation-funded advocacy research project: “We saw a need to be more involved, not just from putting ideas out there but to help guide the conversation more hands-on.” Foundations, particularly those that endorse common education reform priorities, are now more likely to reject the traditional model of funding basic research in universities intended for diusion into policy networks, but without the added leverage of a dedicated marketing structure to ensure, rather than impute, that the research reaches its intended audience.This is particularly true for foundations that identify as strategic philanthropies who are more likely to assertively use research as a tool to advance their policy goals. Strategic philanthropy is structured around the managerial concept of strategic planning, emphasizing clearly articulated goals from the outset of an initiative, the use of research to substantiate decisions, accountability from grantees in the form of benchmarks and deliverables as measured in incremental outcomes, and evaluation to assess progress toward milestones (Brest and Harvey 2008).

Strategic funders also prioritize measurable returns on investments. Applying this formulation, basic research can appear very costly, with high levels of uncertainty or ambiguous returns, while targeted advocacy research promises better yield.Interviewees described strategic foundations—most notably, the Gates and Broad Foundations—as highly influential leaders within the teacher qual-ity policy network and depicted foundations’ theory of change as based on the assumption that teacher evaluation was necessary to advance other education reform goals, such as pay for performance and alternative teacher certifications. They also focused on these foundations’ use of research evidence as political in nature, departing from the “expert-led model of change” that Clemens and Lee (2010) describe and moving toward a model wherein researchers and advo-cates pursued similar goals: to inject policy ideas into political discourse more directly than their traditional philanthropic approaches.

The authors go on to describe the Gates Foundation’s big investment in the MET program (Measures of Effective Teaching). As several interviewees comment, the research started out with a desired outcome, then sought the evidence to back it.

The research paper was published in 2018 and remains timely.

What we don’t know yet is whether the Gates Foundation learned anything from its multiple failures in the field of education.

Laura Chapman explains the nature of “Education Cities,” the latest plaything of the Billionaire Boys Club!

Here is the latest reformy initiative: Education Cities!

Our dear friend Laura Chapman has deciphered what this latest disruptive program is.

She writes:

“Here is some information about Education Cities.

“It is connected to the Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust) launched by The Mind Trust in Indianapolis.

“Both ventures have received Gates Foundation money to push “personalized learning.”

“About Education Cities:

“FUNDERS Laura and John Arnold foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and Walton Family Foundation.


“Education Cities works with leading organizations to help our members achieve their missions.”

1. “Bellwether Education Partners works with Education Cities on research and capacity building projects. Bellwether is a nonprofit dedicated to helping education organizations—in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors—become more effective in their work and achieve dramatic results, especially for high-need students.”

“In Cincinnati, Bellwether was the recruiter for the “Accelerate Great Schools,” initiative that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, pushed by high profile local foundations and the business community—all intent on marketing the need for “high quality seats” meaning you close and open schools based on the state’s weapon-ized system of rating schools, increase charter schools, and hire TFA. (We have a TFA alum on the school board). The CEO of Accelerate Great Schools recruited by Bellwether was a TFA manager from MindTrust in Indianapolis. He lasted about 18 months and accelerated himself to a new job.

2. “Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) at the University of Washington partners with Education Cities to analyze and identify policies that create the conditions that allow great schools to thrive. Through research and policy analysis, CRPE seeks ways to make public education more effective, especially for America’s disadvantaged students.”

“CRPE should be regarded as an operational arm of the Gates Foundation. It marketed the Gates “Compacts,” a make-nice-with-your-charters MOU giving district resources to charters with charters promising to share their “best practices” and other nonsense. The bait included $100,000 up front with the promise of more money to the district if they met x, y, z, terms of the memorandum of understanding. Only few districts got extra money. Many reasons, some obvious like the departure of the people who signed the MOUs.

3. “Public Impact” partners with Education Cities (and Bellwether Education Partners) on research and capacity building projects. With a mission to dramatically improve learning outcomes for all children in the United States, Public Impact concentrates its work on creating the conditions in which great schools can thrive. The Opportunity Culture initiative aims to extend the reach of excellent teaches and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. Public Impact, a national research and consulting firm, launched the Opportunity Culture initiative’s implementation phase in 2011, with funding from The Joyce Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.” Current work is funded by the Overdeck Family Foundation and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.”

“Public Impact is marketing 13 school turnaround models, almost all of these with reassignments of teachers and students to accommodate “personalized” something. One arm of the “opportunity culture” website is a job placement service for teachers. In prior administrations Public Impact and Bellwether worked together to get USDE support for charter schools.

4. “Thomas B. Fordham Institute partners with Education Cities to analyze and identify policies and practices that create the conditions that allow great schools to thrive. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute works to advance educational excellence for every child through research, analysis, and commentary, as well as on-the-ground action and advocacy in Ohio.”

“Well, we have a pretty good idea in Ohio of how all of that pontification worked out.

“Here are the cities in the foundation-led move to eliminate democratically elected school boards and substitute public schools with contract schools that receive public funds but usually privately operated. At one time the number of Education Cities was 30, then 28, now 25.

1. Albuquerque, NM, Excellent Schools New Mexico

2. Baton Rouge, LA New Schools for Baton Rouge

3. Boise, ID Bluum

4. Boston, MA Boston Schools Fund, Empower Schools

5. Chicago, IL, New Schools for Chicago

6. Cincinnati, OH, Accelerate Great Schools

7. Denver, CO, Gates Family Foundation, Donnell-Kay Foundation

8. Detroit, MI, The Skillman Foundation

9. Indianapolis, IN, The Mind Trust

10. Kansas City, MO, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation

11. Las Vegas, NV, Opportunity 180

12. Los Angeles, CA, Great Public Schools Now

15. Memphis, TN, Memphis Education Fund

16. Minneapolis, MN, Minnesota Comeback

17. Nashville, TN, Project Renaissance

18. New Orleans, LA, New Schools for New Orleans

19. Oakland, CA, Educate78, Great Oakland Public Schools Leadership Center, Rogers Family Foundation

20. Philadelphia, PA, Philadelphia School Partnership

21. Phoenix, AZ, New Schools for Phoenix

22. Richmond, CA, Chamberlin Family Foundation

23. Rochester, NY, E3 Rochester

24. San Jose, CA, Innovate Public Schools

25. Washington, DC, Education Forward DC, CityBridge Education

“These cities have been targeted for capture by promoters of choice, charters, tech, poaching talent and resources from public schools, and pushing the idea that established public schools are failures.”

Laura Chapman, intrepid researcher, writes here about the billionaire and corporate money supporting the rating system for schools called GreatSchools. It clearly exists to promote school choice, not community cohesion or civic responsibility. GreatSchools recently announced that it would use “growth scores” to measure school quality, not just test scores, but the difference is miniscule, and the outcome is the same: to promote segregation and school choice by linking “school quality” and test scores.

Laura Chapman writes:

Great Schools is supported by income from Scholastic, Zillow and other advertisers, who pay for packages that can push up their page views or allow them to license the school ratings. The whole website functions as a tool to perpetuate redlining, charter schools, and advocates forf school choice.

Here are the largest financial pushers of the dubious ratings:

Walton Family Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Trust, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These big funders are offered a display of their logos. Other supporters are: America Achieves, The Charles Hayden Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, EdChoice, Heising-Simons Foundation, Innovate Public Schools, The Joyce Foundation, Excellent Schools Detroit, The Kern Family Foundation, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and Startup: Education. These are not supporters of public schools.

This website is designed to market an ideology and a rating scheme. The Terms of use policy says: “Some information contained on the website may represent opinion or judgment… GreatSchools does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information on the website. As such, GreatSchools will not be responsible for any errors, inaccuracies, omissions or deficiencies in the information provided on the website. This information is provided “as is,” with no guarantees of completeness, non-infringement, accuracy or timeliness, and without warranties of any kind, express or implied.”

Great Schools also lists “Partners.” Sad to say, the Great Schools website, designed to steer parents away from most public schools has a partnership with the US Department of Education and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Community Action Partners” are: Choice Matters Oklahoma, Colorado Succeeds, Community Foundation of Atlanta, Delaware Department of Education, Families Empowered, Innovate Public Schools, The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, and United Way of Central Indiana.

“Partners for Content” include the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence featuring Yale’s RULER program, a system of direct instruction in: (a) managing emotions by naming them and (b) thinking out loud about degrees of emotional intensity (energy) and pleasantness. Students learn to Recognize, Understand, Label, and Regulate their emotions at about $7,500 per school team.

The second “Content Partner” (believe it or not) is PARCC Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career. As of the 2019-2020 school year, these tests were only used in Washington DC, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. New Jersey will stop using these tests in 2020-2021.

“Other Partners” are:
–Be a Learning Hero, offers parents a “roadmap” for school readiness and test prep. Key leaders worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

–Common Sense Media is a marketing website offering parents reviews and lists of kid-suitable videos, books, other media.

–Education Cities is a network promoting school choice in 24 cities in cooperation with 31 city based organizations. The network is funded by the Broad Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Walton Family foundation.

–National PTA which claims not “to endorse any commercial product or service.” But also says “Companies making a financial contribution to PTA may be entitled to promotional consideration and, in some cases, may have limited use of PTA’s marks and assets.” Deals for members are offered by PTA’s 18 Corporate Alliances.” The National PTA also markets Common Core resources with outdated claims about these “being fully implemented.”

–Understood is devoted to serving families and children with disabilities. It is funded by15 non-profits, not counting these recent supporters: The New Teacher Center, Relay Graduate School of Education, the Achievement Network, and New Visions for Public schools,.

Great Schools also lists Bellwether Education Partners, the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Thomas B Fordham Institute, and Public Impact as “Partners. All promote charter schools as if these are “public.”

Great Schools generates and leases data to “leading real estate, technology and media websites.” Great Schools claims to be “the nation’s leading source of school performance information…. with “more than 55 million unique visitors” last year and “over half of American families with school-age children.”

Great Schools is designed to forward three real estate practices associated with parents seeking a school. The first is block busting—a process designed to promote fear among white home owners or prospective buyers that a neighborhood school brings too many low income racial minorities to the community and devalues its real estate. The second is redlining, illegal, but the practice of denying loans or property insurance to applicants based on the racial makeup of a neighborhood, including school demographics. The third and most common is steering, the real estate practice of directing homebuyers to or away from specific neighborhoods and schools based on the prospective homebuyer’s race color, religion, gender (sex), sexual orientation, disability (handicap), familial status, or national origin.

Great Schools rating schemes for “school quality” are a case study in what Cathy O’Neal has called mathematical intimidation. If you are mathematically inclined, see if you can make sense of the rating schemes available here.


Reformer groups and programs and projects pop up so often that I’m tempted to call them mushrooms, although stinkweeds would work too. I met Matt Gandal, described below, when he worked for Checker Finn at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation. As long as the foundations keep pumping money into their hobby, there will be more mushrooms. She wrote this comment a month or so ago:


Laura Chapman describes the latest Reformer mushroom:


Meanwhile, the self-appointed members of the “Education Strategy Group” will command the National Press Club March 8 for a launch of “Level UP, Aligning for Success.”

The program will focus on “how we are collectively working to improve student preparation and increase success in postsecondary education and training,” especially “the preparation of students of color, students from low-income backgrounds and first-generation college students.”

Level Up is described as a coalition, a collaboration, and effort to provide “a playbook of high-impact strategies that K-12 and higher education leaders can collaboratively use to increase student success.”

The Founder (2012) and President of the Education Strategy Group, Matt Gandal, is not embarrassed to offer a brief resume that reveals his 20 year association with perfectly terrible policies for education. He was as a senior advisor to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan where he led the “Reform Support Network” created as an enforcement arm for compliance (implementation) of Race to the Top.

Before that job, Gandal claims to be a founder and executive vice president of Achieve—infamous for its promotion of the Common Core State Standards—and the antecedent American Diploma Project. If you have not read Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools by Mercedes Schneider please do so. If you know the history of those bad ideas just be aware that they are not dead yet, not by a long shot. Gandal also claims to have held a leadership position in Chester Finn’s Educational Excellence Network. What more do you need to know?

Gandal ”was the author and chief architect of Making Standards Matter, an annual American Federation of Teachers report (beginning in 1992) purporting to evaluate the quality of the academic standards, assessments and accountability policies in every state. He also helped to drum up anxieties about standards in the United States in relation to other industrialized nations.

So, that is the leadership for the “Education Strategy Group.” The group functions as an advocacy shop for varied efforts to sustain the Common Core, with the attached aim of preparation for “college and career,” where career refers to workforce training.

This is a partial list of past and present “clients” for the Education Strategy Group: Delaware Department of Education, Georgia Department of Education, Maryland Department of Education, Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board, Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Commission for Higher Education, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Higher Education, Baltimore City Public Schools.

These are also listed as if clients: Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), National Governors Association (NGA), Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU), United States Chamber of Commerce Foundation, myFutureNC, New America.

Credits indicate support from the Charles A. Dana Center, Collaborative for Student Success; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Helios Education Foundation; Rodel Foundation of Delaware; J.P. Morgan Chase; Carnegie Corporation of New York; Joyce Foundation; Lumina Foundation; Abell Foundation; Strada Education Network; and Belk Foundation,

Two of the service “stories” of the Education Strategy Group focus on “The Collaborative for Student Success,” a project of the New Venture Fund. The Collaborative is also a creature of deep-pocket funding from groups unfriendly to public schools: the Bloomberg Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, ExxonMobil, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

“The Collaborative for Student Success (CSS)” is a platform designed to reassert the general idea that standards are not high enough and they are a panacea. The CCS is also one among several non-profits (e.g., Bellwether Education Partners) that have elected to review and criticize state ESSA plans. You can see the CCS effort here with a direct link (no surprise) to the charter loving Walton funded 74 Million

In other words, the National Press Club will become a forum for the launch of “Level UP, Aligning for Success.” The question is whether any one in the audience will have done enough homework to grasp this latest effort to shore up failed education policies. The National Press Club is for hire, and the launch of “Level UP, Aligning for Success” provides another venue for billionaire foundations and corporate friends to promote policies and practices that have no basis in professional wisdom. I hope members of the National Press Club will ask pointed questions about this latest PR effort to keep the the standards movement in place–a major effort to discredit public education. The link to the Walton funded 74 Million leaves no doubt about whose interests this PR campign serves.




Our reader, Laura Chapman, was interested in the sponsorship of the Education Writers Association, whose annual meeting will feature Betsy DeVos. No matter how odious her views, journalists should hear her and question her.

She wrote:


You have to pay $125 to attend this Education Writers Association event and do some writing on education.

It is not surprising that the Education Writers Association has selected DeVos as a major speaker. I conclude that by looking at the list of “Current Sustaining Funders”—all known for undermining public education while posturing about saving children from “underperforming schools.”

Here are the current “Sustaining Funders:”

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Joyce Foundation, The Kern Family Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Pritzker Children’s Initiative, The Wallace Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, William T. Grant Foundation.

The Education Writers Association also invites groups to pay for programs like this one as well as its website, newsletters, blogs, and printed programs for regional meetings. Those who foot the bill are called “Sponsors.” The list of past Sponsors is a curious mix of non-profits, for-profits, and national organizations of educators. Following is my grouping and parenthetical comments on past Sponsors of the Education Writers Association.

Membership Organizations:

American Council on Education (leaders of about 1,700 accredited, degree-granting institutions); American Federation of Teachers (about 1.7 million members, all levels of education); National Education Association (about 3 million members, all levels of education); Council of Chief State School Officers (public officials in charge of state departments of elementary and secondary education, plus the District of Columbia, Department of Defense Education, Bureau of Indian Education, and the five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions—promoters of the Common Core).

Higher Education Institutions:
California State University; National University; Stanford Graduate School of Education; Strayer University; University of Connecticut Neag School of Education; University of Chicago Urban Education Institute; University of Nevada, Las Vegas; University of Southern California.

Academic Research and Advocacy Organizations:
American Institutes for (holding company for contract researchers in the social sciences); Learning Policy Institute (academic research, President and CEO Linda Darling-Hammond)

Organizations with Megabuck Funding:
Big Picture Learning, The Met (network of career high schools);
The Broad (bang-for-the-buck corporate training for leaders in education); Data Quality (Gates funded to promote computer-coded national database on every student, teacher, and school); (promotes market-based education, not public schools);
Education (promotes high stakes tests to expand market for charter schools, choice). Say Yes to Education, Weiss (software and metrics for college/career readiness programs in selected communities, read by grade three, etc. Weiss’ wealth came from money management): Strada Education (postsecondary career connections with this subsidiary—Economic Modeling LLC, offering predictive analytics about labor force needs and talent pipelines);

For-Profit Ventures:
Chan Zuckerberg (promotes technology, data use in education); (college admission and SAT prep); (broker for online tutoring services); (online resources special education); (marketer of instructional materials and tests); (multinational publishing and media company in education)

Public Relations/Marketing Firms: (PR firm, political messaging); (PR firm, branding and Messaging); Widmeyer Communications — A Finn Partners Company (PR firm, digital marketing);

Testing Organizations:
The College (marketer of SAT and AP tests and test-prep materials); Educational Testing (contractor/provider of tests—NAEP, GRE, PRAXIS, others)

American Financial Services Association Education Foundation (consumer education, especially about credit cards);
The Broad Foundation (supports the arts, medical sciences, and charter schools); Edwin Gould Foundation (helps incubate non-profits in education);
Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (awards fellowships to emerging leaders for the academy and public service).

There are tiers of “sponsorship” for the website and other activities/events of the Education Writers Association. The highest fees are for website advertising— four-week purchase of announcement space options include: “Run of site – $ 5,000;
Blogs – $ 2,000;
Jobs – $ 2,000;
Events – $ 1,200;
Single overview page – $600.
For all of the advertising options the Education Writers Association “maintains editorial control over all programming and content.”

It would be interesting to see a timeline of the sponsors. I’d guess that the long list of “past sponsors” includes many short time and one-timers. I hope that this program will cause many sponsor to flee. Devos is menace to education.

Leonie Haimson is one of the nation’s sharpest critic of scams, especially in the area of ed-tech and online learning.

She is outraged that Chalkbeat posted an uncritical article about the scams now sold to schools. He clearly wanted to lump together the critics of Common Core (those “right wingers” [like me]) and the critics of “personalized learning,” who have the retrograde belief that children should be taught by teachers, not computers.

Pay attention to the funders of Chalkbeat (Gates; Walton; Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and others who are pushing online learning and “personalized learning.”) They are listed at the end of this post. Don’t overlook the Anschutz Foundation. He is an evangelical Christian who produced “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” that anti-public school, anti-union propaganda film.

She writes:

Matt Barnum has posted an article at Chalkbeat on the controversy over online learning. I spent nearly an hour talking to him about its myriad problems, including the negative experiences of parents and students in schools where online learning predominates, serious privacy concerns because of all the data-mining by vendors that is involved, and a serious lack of research evidence — but the only quote he used from our conversation is one sentence: that the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy which I co-chair. has worked with allies in right-wing groups on the privacy issue.
Instead, when I spoke to him about this, I emphasized that the concerns about the expansion of online learning and its impact on privacy was shared by groups and individuals of all political persuasion, left right and center, and many parents with little interest in politics at all. That’s why our campaign against inBloom was so successful, and that’s why in NY State and elsewhere, parents and teachers in all nine states and districts that were participating were able to force them from dropping out of the program to share their children’s personal data and make it more accessible to vendors without parental consent. But he left that part out of my quote and his story as a whole, because it did not fit into his pre-ordained narrative.

Indeed, Barnum seemed eager to mischaracterize the opposition to so-called personalized learning as led by conservatives. He is also quick to frame the pushback vs Common Core in a similar fashion –as driven by many of the same right-wing groups — when one of the most successful protests against the standards occurred here in NY state, led by NY State Allies for Public Education, a coalition of mostly left-wing and politically moderate parents and teachers who also oppose the expansion of ed tech.

Barnum didn’t mention any of the other progressive groups, medical associations, and researchers across the country who are very concerned about the expansion of online learning in schools, including Screens and Kids, Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, the ACLU, Commonsense Media, National Education Policy Center, Parents Across America, the Badass Teachers Association and many others.
Nor did he bother to interview any of the many prominent progressive critics of ed tech like Diane Ravitch, Peter Greene or Audrey Watters. Nor did he acknowledge that Silicon Valley parents themselves are increasingly rejecting computerized learning, as reported in the terrific NY Times series by Nellie Bowles.

Instead, he quotes only one non-right wing critic of online learning by name– Merrie Najimy, the President of the Massachusetts teachers – while featuring many paragraphs of rosy spin from defenders of ed tech, like Diane Tavenner of Summit and Bethany Gross of CRPE, both funded by Gates and Zuckerberg.

Barnum cites a CRPE report also paid for by Gates that apparently says, oh yeah, teachers really like personalized learning – while ignoring the survey results in our Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy, which showed widespread concern among teachers and administrators alike about the expansion of digital apps and online programs in our schools. He also quotes Randi Weingarten who, surprisingly, has nothing but kind words about the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which has done absolutely nothing that I can think of to earn her confidence.

Amazingly, Barnum also manages to write an entire piece about edtech and personalized learning, Summit, Gates and Zuckerberg without once mentioning the issue of data privacy, the widespread occurrence of breaches, the potential misuse of algorithms, and the over-reach of student surveillance in schools. The only mention of the word “privacy” is in the one sentence that quotes me about working with conservative allies on the issue.

Quite an achievement and yet more evidence of a serious blind spot in Chalkbeat’s education coverage, reminiscent of their failure to cover the parent opposition against inBloom that started here in New York and led to such a firestorm across the country that more than 120 state student privacy laws have been passed as a result of the inBloom controversy since 2013.

There is more to read, and you should open the link to see her many links to other articles and reports.

Chalkbeat should be ashamed. Its sponsors are showing their hands.

Here is a list of Chalkbeat funders.

Ann & Hal Logan via The Denver Foundation*
Anna and John J. Sie Foundation*
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation
Awesome Without Borders
Azita Raji and Gary Syman
Ben & Lucy Ana Walton*
Better Education Institute, Inc.
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Brett Family Foundation
Brooke Brown via the Carson Foundation*
Buell Foundation
Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carson Foundation
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Charles H. Revson Foundation
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
Christopher Gabrieli
CME Group
COGEN Co-working
Community Foundation of Greater Memphis
Community Foundation of New Jersey
Democracy Fund
Donnell-Kay Foundation
Doug and Wendy Kreeger
EDU21C Foundation
Elaine Berman
Eli Lilly and Company Foundation, Inc.
Elizabeth Aybar Conti
Elizabeth Haas Edersheim (In Kind)
Emma Bloomberg
Ford Foundation
Fry Foundation
Fund for Nonprofit News at The Miami Foundation
Gail Klapper
Gates Family Foundation
GEM Foundation
George T. Cameron Education Foundation
Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation partnership with the Knight Foundation
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (In Kind)
J.R. Hyde III Family Foundation Donor Advised Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis
Jim and Marsha McCormick
Kate Kennedy Reinemund and Jim Kennedy
Ken Hirsh
Kresge Foundation
La Vida Feliz Foundation
Lenfest Community Listening and Engagement Fund
Lilly Endowment Inc.
Maher Foundation
Margulf Foundation
Mark Zurack
Memphis Education Fund
Naomi and Michael Rosenfeld
Overdeck Family Foundation
Debra and Paul Appelbaum
Peter and Carmen L. Buck Foundation
Polk Bros. Foundation
Quinn Family Foundation
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation
Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Inc.
Rick Smith
Rob Gary and Chris Watney
Rob Gary via the Piton Foundation*
Robert J. Yamartino and Maxine Sclar
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Rose Community Foundation
Scott Gleason of O’Melveny & Myers (In Kind)
Scott Pearl
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Skift (In Kind)
Spencer Foundation
Steans Family Foundation
Sue Lehmann
Susan Sawyers
Thalla-Marie and Heeten Choxi
The Assisi Foundation
The Anschutz Foundation
The Barton Family Foundation, a donor-advised fund of The Denver Foundation*
The Caswell Jin Foundation
The Colorado Health Foundation
The Colorado Trust
The Crown Family
The Denver Foundation
The Durst Organization (In Kind)
The Glick Fund, a fund of the Central Indiana Community Foundation
The Indianapolis Foundation, a CICF affiliate
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
The McGregor Fund
The Moriah Fund
The Skillman Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation
Victoria Foundation
Walentas Foundation Ltd.
Washington Square Legal Services/NYU Business Transactions Clinic (In Kind)
Wend Ventures
Widmeyer, A FinnPartners Company (In Kind)
Will and Christina McConathy*
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Yoobi (In Kind)